An evening of readings, music and commentary to recreate a salon evening in Mayfair as autumn moved towards winter in the year 1913. Hosted as part of the Legatum Institute's current Salon Series.
What might it have been like to attend a salon held in a house in Mayfair in the early winter of 1913? The critic Bonnie Greer, aided by The Jazz Warriors International Ensemble, a group with an international reputation, set out to answer that question in the course of their evening of musical entertainment and literary readings, supplemented by historical commentary from Legatum Institute Senior Advisor Hywel Williams, which set the pre-war cultural developments in their social and economic context.
1913 had seen the end of a brief war in the Balkans and though international tensions clearly existed there was little to suggest that they could not be resolved—as so many other crises had been during the opening years of the twentieth century.
The period 1900-1914 was one of new horizons, political progress, economic development and cultural excitement, all of which were reflected in this salon's cultural mix.
Musical pieces by Erik Satie and Francois Poulenc brought the syncopated rhythms of cultural innovation to life, while Greer reflected on the impact of D H. Laurence (whose Sons and Lovers was published in 1913) as well as the achievements of the composer Dame Ethel Smyth, a pioneering figure in the history of women's rights.
The future is unpredictable, and for a very good reason: human beings enjoy freedom. Nobody in 1913 could therefore foresee an immediate carnage on the scale of the First World War and a future of European development seemed a real possibility.
The salon was a powerful reminder of the way in which cultural prosperity reflects the wider context of an age and of the way in which knowledge of the past can inform our judgements when thinking about the present and the future.
About the Speakers/Performers
Bonnie Greer is a leading figure in the culture of contemporary Britain. She has been deputy chair of the Trustees of the British Museum and in 2013 she became Chancellor of Kingston University - a role she defines as giving her an opportunity to be "a champion of entrepreneurship".
Cleveland Watkiss, the award winning virtuoso vocalist and composer is a founding member of The Jazz Warriors: The Warriors' fusion of musical styles, both classical and contemporary, has gained them a national and international celebrity.
About the 'Prosperity on the Edge: 1913-14 The Last Year of Peace' Series
An extraordinary period in human history came to a sudden and cataclysmic end in the summer of 1914. Nineteenth century Europe was an expansionist and prosperous civilisation. Its economy boomed, the arts and humanities flourished, scientific progress accelerated, personal liberty became the birthright of increasing numbers of people. And from 1871 onwards, Western Europe was at peace.
The Autumn lecture series relived the last year of peace as experienced in the lives of key individuals. Their achievements and pre-occupations in the year 1913-14 illustrate the multi-faceted nature of a brilliant culture—one whose legacy helped to shape the world we live in today. International in their perspective and multi-disciplinary in approach, these lectures will make an original contribution to the understanding of human prosperity and liberty.